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9 August 2016

50 senior Republicans declare: “None of us will vote for Trump“

Those speaking out can expect personal attacks - but they may still have the last laugh. 

By Julia Rampen

Finally, after months of horrified silence, some Republican grandees are turning on Donald Trump. 

An open letter signed by 50 Republican former national security officials warns that the Republican nominee “is not qualified to be President and Commander-in-Chief” and declares “None of us will vote for Donald Trump”. 

The signatories include the former CIA director Michael Hayden, as well as former White House advisers, diplomats and trade emissaries.

The letter states:

“We are convinced that he would be a dangerous President and would put at risk our country’s national security and well-being.”

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It also attacks Trump’s “lack of basic knowledge” about the US constitution, its laws and institutions such as religious tolerance and freedom of the press.

The letter also took aim at Trump’s famous temper, saying he lacked the temperament to be President:

“He is unable or unwilling to separate truth from falsehood. He does not encourage conflicting views. He lacks self-control and acts impetuously. He cannot tolerate personal criticism. He has alarmed our closest allies with his erratic behavior. All of these are dangerous qualities in an individual who aspires to be President and Commanderin-Chief, with command of the U.S. nuclear arsenal.”

While the determination of Republicans to take a stand against their own nominee is a startling development, many will be asking what took them so long.

There have been some who spoke up. Ted Cruz, Trump’s former rival, refused to endorse him for the nomination and urged audience members to “vote your conscience”. Lindsey Graham, known for his bipartisan work with the Democratic party, has urged his colleagues to un-endorse Trump. 

But other Republicans have limited their criticism to the controversy after Trump attacked a Muslim family whose son was killed in the line of duty. 

John McCain, a Republican veteran and former Presidential nominee, condemned Trump’s statement about the Khan family.

But crucially he didn’t retract his previous decision to back him as nominee.

Instead he limited himself to saying: “It is time for Donald Trump to set the example”. 

The former Bush Presidents have so far refused to endorse Trump. But neither have they publicly denounced him. Only Barbara Bush, the wife of Bush Snr, has said she doesn’t see how women could vote for him. 

Other senior Republicans have actively backed the upstart nominee. 

John Boehner, a former speaker of the House of Representatives, has backed Trump while disavowing his policies. Dick Cheney, the vice president during the second Bush administration, has backed Trump.  

Paul Ryan, the current speaker of the House of Representatives, put off endorsing Trump as long as he could (Trump threatened to withold his own endorsement of Ryan). But he eventually came through, claiming: “We have more common ground than disagreement.”

As Ryan’s experience shows, the difficulty for any Republican considering taking a stand against Trump is twofold. First, in a two-horse race, the implication of not backing Trump is supporting Hillary Clinton, a hate figure to many Republicans. 

Second, Republicans standing for re-election face a backlash among grassroots voters. Trump is still attracting tens of thousands to his rallies and commands a following of 10.8m on Twitter, where he frequently indulges in personal attacks. A tweet attacking his Republican critic, the independently-minded Michael Bloomberg, was retweeted more than 8,000 times. 

All the same, it may be the Republicans taking flak now who have the last laugh. After Trump attacked the Khan family and refused to endorse Ryan, a series of polls suggested his support had slumped. In an ABC/Washington Post poll, 61 per cent of voters said he was unqualified to be President. 

So far, many of the Republicans who have publicly criticised Trump have done so on principle, stung by his attacks on religious liberty or the prospect of his finger coming in prodding distance of the nuclear button. 

But if Trump leads the Republicans to yet another crushing Presidential defeat, even those who are relaxed about his stance on women, immigrants and national security will have to answer the question: “Why did you not speak out?”